Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Travel Year in Review

As my camper sits parked and winterized in the driveway waiting for the new year, its a good time to reflect back on my travels over the past year.  2013 was another year that I was able to continue living my dreams (and some nightmares).  I was fortunate to continue traveling even though my health was a challenge for much of the year.  At times, it would have been easy to just stay home, but I was determined to not give in to those thoughts and let a disease deter me from getting out and living life.    

Taking a break at Gulf Islands National Seashore in March

My Roadtrek Class B RV helped make this possible.  I had a bathroom wherever I went and a bed a few feet away when I needed to rest.   I paced myself, sat when I needed, slept late, and quit early.  I took extra days to get places.  I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere and didn’t try to do things I knew I couldn’t.  Also, my wife accompanied me on several trips and offered to come rescue me if I found myself needing help and unable to continue.

At times, I was running on fumes, but here’s a summary of what I was able to do;

·         Took 8 trips visiting 19 states.
·         Spent 116 days away from home, 82 of which were spent camping in my Roadtrek van.
·         Drove over 18,000 miles traveling by RV and boat.
·         Drove across the Mississippi River and up to the top the Rocky Mountains.
·         Visited 13 National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and/or Historic Sites.
·         Visited 11 State Parks.
·         Visited 4 Presidential Libraries.

I didn’t do a lot of hiking or biking, but did spend time sitting on some great beaches.  Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota and Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island were the best.  Watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico on St. Josephs Peninsula was also pretty spectacular.

Sitting on the beach in January instead of shoveling snow back home

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico in March

On the Trail Ridge Road in June
I got easily winded walking up a flight of stairs, but the views from the Trail Ridge Road in Rock Mountain National Park took my breath away.  The 12,000 ft. elevation may have also had something to do with the shortness of breath.
I saw lots of wildlife and took lots of pictures.  There were grizzly bears, buffalo, coyotes, elk, deer, eagles, loons, hawks, egrets, dolphins, manatees, and turkeys.  Watching the manatees in Blue Spring State Park in Florida was pretty spectacular. 

With the manatees at Blue Spring State Park in February
I did my first “freegan” camping spending several nights boon docking at Walmarts, Truck Stops, Casinos, and Cracker Barrels.  I never had a problem at any of these places.  I always asked permission and was always welcomed.  The web site OvernightRVparking.com was a great find that paid for itself with one overnight stay.

Travel wise I had a fulfilling year. I explored more places on the east coast, spent the winter rambling around Florida, and took 35 days traveling out west in the Rockies. I did more than I thought I would be able to do and I’m glad I pushed myself to get out there and go places.
Boon docking at a Pilot truck stop in Missouri in June
The year also ended on a high note.  After battling progressively worsening IBD symptoms for the past 3 years, I found that one of the mainstream drugs I was taking was actually making things worse.  I was the victim of a rare side effect that only affects 1-3% of the people who take it. Thanks to the specialist who made the recommendation, my symptoms are almost gone and I’m getting back to normal.  Second and third opinions are worth every penny.

I have much to be thankful for. I got my health back, have a great supportive family, have great doctors helping me, and was able to travel and live my dreams.

2013 was a great year and I hope 2014 is even better. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Washington DC - Part 2

As a country boy, I live in a rural place surrounded by nature and open spaces.  My neighbors are cows and cornfields and the tallest things are the trees.  Whenever I travel to a big city, I marvel at the size and closeness of everything.

Washington exudes grandness.  The buildings, statues, and monuments are all huge.  The size of many building were purposely built to show this grandness.  The National Archive building takes up a whole city block.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Washington DC - Part 1

One of the benefits of being retired is that its easy to take a spur of the moment trip.  I'm the type of guy who could pack for a lunar expedition in less than 30 minutes.  Having an RV makes it even easier.  Such was the case for my recent trip to Washington DC in mid November.  With about a days notice and a check-in with my wife (she had to work), I packed up and headed south to visit the Capital.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Roadtrek DIY Modifications

Thought I'd share some of the small modifications I've made to my 2012 Roadtrek 190 Simplicity.  These aren't product endorsements, advertisements, and I'm not promoting the products or vendors.  I did all of these myself, but got the ideas from seeing what others had done.  It's in that spirit that I'm sharing the improvement ideas and things I've done.

This year, I added a stone / bug deflector to the front hood.  I found that the leading edge of my hood was consistently getting plastered with bugs and taking some chips from small stones.  I got the deflector from Weather Tech on the Internet.  It is a custom fit for the Chevy Express Van. Cost was $60 plus shipping and it attaches to the underside of the hood with two self taping machine screws and adhesive strips.  It took about 30 mins to put it on.  And it works.  No more bugs plastered to the hood.

Stone & Bug Deflector
I also added side window deflectors to the drive and passenger side windows.  These are also from Weather Tech and cost $60 plus shipping for the pair.  These are custom to the Chevy Express Van.  They fit snug into the window channel slot, no tools needed.  It took about 15 mins to put them in.  These cut down the wind flow into the van when you crack the window open. They also keep the rain out.

Side Window Deflector
I have an armoire behind the drivers seat.  I added a gallery molding to the top of the armoire so I could use the top of the armoire to store soft items such as bread, cereal boxes, chips, tissues, etc.  I got the gallery molding from Home Depot.  Cost was $20.  I had to cut the molding and screwed it to the armoire top.  The molding is maple, but I stained it to match the cherry finish of the armoire.  It took about 30 mins to put it in, not including the finishing time (staining and polyurethane).

Armoire top with gallery molding
In the picture above, you'll also see that I added a holder for a hand soap dispenser and / or hand sanitizer to the outside the cabinet above the sink.  I made it out of 1/2 scrap wood that I had in my wood shop.  I used 1/2 maple, which you can buy small pieces at Lowe's or Home Depot, and stained it to match the cabinet.

I added another towel holder to the top of the bathroom door.  I used a 16 in stainless steel cabinet pull that I got from Lowe's. Cost was about $39.  I needed to drill two holes in the top of the door to put screws thru to secure the pull to the door.  It took about 15 mins to put on and looks great.

Lastly, I needed a clock in the rear of the van to be able to see the time while in bed or while watching TV.  I made a small little shelf in my shop out of 1/2 scrap oak wood and got an inexpensive alarm clock from Walmart.  I put the shelf on the wall below the DVD player and just above the TV.  I used self adhesive Velcro strips on the shelf and the bottom of the clock to hold it in place.

Clock on small shelf
Total cost for all of these mods was just around $200.